Yes you read right. I have stopped cooking meat, but don’t go calling me a vegetarian and what-not.
Confusing? Hypocritical? Maybe.
I mentioned my mini-revelation in my last post, but I’ll go over it briefly to further illustrate my point.
So my family (Mom and Step-dad) have 14 chickens. We live 5 minutes away from the beach as well as a bustling downtown (Voted Most Fun Small Town of Delray Beach, anyone?) so it’s odd to people living in the city that we have chickens. My whole street is like this. My next door neighbors have chickens, across from there is some goats and ponies, as well as other goats/4-legged furry friends sprinkled across the privately-owned street. The thing is, we used to have 16 chickens. (8 of them are babies, well really “adolescent” chickens that have started to really grow larger feathers and blossom into their menstruating selves soon enough) but recently two of the larger ones (about 4 years old) were killed by an animal (we think racoon) when they were accidentally left outside at night.
Things happen. Chickens die. But it got to me. I told one of my friends about it, and he comforted me, saying that at least they had this nice life of roaming around my yard instead of being born-and-raised solely to be food. I went on with my life, and ate a Chik-Fil-A sandwich the next day without even noticing.
But subconsciously I was drawn to a meatless existence. I was flipping through my two newest cookbooks (that I COMPLETELY recommend- Thug Kitchen Cookbook and V is for Vegetables ) and was enticed by the vegan and vegetarian recipes (Thug Kitchen is completely vegan. V is for Vegetables is plant-based with some meat recipes in there, but many remain vegetarian or vegan. But I’ll get to that later.)
I’d been doing Meatless Monday for a few months, and had at least experimented with using plant protein in my cooking so far. So when I came back to Alabama to begin my last semester of graduate school, I decided to go vegetarian. I didn’t buy any meat from the grocery store, and I would come in with about 3 recipes in mind, then proceed to make use of the leftovers.
(See?! How good do those look?! No meat to be found.)
Anyway, back to how I am not a vegetarian.
Last week, my nutrition girls invited me over for a cooking/wine night, as we have talked about probably twenty times before. While I considered making a vegetarian dish, I opted for a mostly plant-based meal with a small filet of salmon, for healthy fats and protein.
While they may have been receptive to a completely vegetarian meal, they really enjoyed this one and I did too! I started to second-guess my vegetarian lifestyle in its infancy! But I realized- the decisions I am already making, if only 75% vegetarian, are contributing to the ethical reasons behind the ideology, such as improving my carbon footprint, decreasing animal suffering, and just a recognized idea that you don’t actually need meat all the time. (Btw: you really should only be having about 3-5 ounces of meat a day. We in America far exceed that recommendation)
The fact that I allow myself to have meat when out with friends, at a restaurant, or even cooking for a dinner date, means that I allow myself to have it as a treat, and I feel that I respect it more that way. I respect the animal by taking the time to acknowledge it for what it is, and enjoying every single bit of it, rather than mindlessly consuming it.
The chef-author of V is for Vegetables, Michael Anthony says it best as this:
” To have a healthy farm, you need a healthy cycle of elements that includes livestock. It is only in meat-centric America that we think loving vegetables inevitably means hating meat. But I like eating well, I like living well, and I do not believe in a cuisine of deprivation. I believe in finding a better balance. For me, cooking with vegetables is not a political act; it’s an enlightened way of thinking.”
I think this is the point I have been trying to make all along. I don’t think it’s wrong to consume meat. I really don’t. But I also don’t think its completely necessary for us to be eating meat all the time. It is extremely possible for us to satisfy ourselves with the vast multitude of vegetables, legumes, fruit, and seeds out there.
I eat meat when I want to eat meat. and I don’t eat meat when I don’t want to eat meat. It just so happens that the latter gives me the most pleasure. I take joy out of having a plant-based lifestyle.
And pleasure is the most important part! If what you’re eating is not giving you pleasure, don’t eat it!
However, I can promise you, there are about a million ways to make plants give you pleasure.